By Jack Elliot and Marilyn Noble
Not since the blizzard of 1996 have airports in the New York metropolitan area been as devastated by snow as they were by the storm that hit the East Coast on the weekend of February 15. Teterboro and Morristown Airports were shut down. Teterboro had 21 and 1/2 inches. Morristown had 24.
But there was one ray of light in the wintry blast. Jet Aviation at Teterboro found a way to make the mountains of snow disappear.
With over 700,000 square feet of ramp space to clear at the all jet facility, simply piling up the snow and letting it melt creates problems with visibility for pilots and line crews and can lead to aircraft damage. Removing the snow requires a fleet of dump trucks, which adds to congestion on the ramp. Last summer, in a flash of foresight, Jet Aviation contracted with GlobeGround, the company that provides snow removal for the Port Authority, to park a snow melter on the premises.
GlobeGround employees clear the ramp of snow and push it to designated areas where front-end loaders pick it up and dump it into the melter.
“It’s a big container that looks like a huge dumpster,” said line supervisor John Vanderhave. “They push the snow into one location, and then a bucket loader picks it up and dumps it in the melter, which has a turbine engine that melts it. After it’s melted, it’s dumped in a storm drain. So we don’t stock pile snow. We eliminate it. It’s something new and very few airports have it.”
While it’s more expensive than regular snow removal, Mike Szczechowski, general manager at Jet Aviation, feels like the new system is worth it.
“Even though the airport was closed all day yesterday, we were very active in clearing the ramp,” he said the day following the storm. “We were in good shape, and could have received aircraft.”
He added that by that evening they expected to be totally cleared.
“That’s pretty good response for a major snowstorm like this one,” he said.
Teterboro was closed from three in the morning on Sunday and opened at 5:30 Monday morning.
“Our guys worked 16-hour shifts,” said Lanny Rider. “They did a wonderful job. You almost had to drag those people out of the vehicles just to feed them. We were able to open about an hour ahead of LaGuardia.”
Mountains of snow rose at the FBOs all over the airport—in many areas so high all you could see was the top of aircraft tails.
A new piece of equipment was put into service at Newark and JFK, also, according to Lanny Rider.
“It’s a combination plow, broom and blower,” he said. “It’s state of the art. This is the first year they’ve used it and it’s really working out well. Both airports stayed open during the entire storm. We couldn’t use it here because it’s too big to operate on our taxiway system. It’s too big for LaGuardia, also.”
At Morristown, the airport was closed that Monday from 3 a.m. to 11 p.m.
“Our guys were on the job from Sunday afternoon till 7 p.m., Tuesday,” said Bob Bogan, the airport’s deputy director. “On Tuesday morning, operators began moving aircraft that had been snowbound and we got very busy. We’re going to have to explore the snow melter, because we’re running out of places to put the snow.”